‘Big stick’ is the only way forward

Only threat of further strikes will force Ucea to renegotiate pay, unions say

November 7, 2013

Source: Alamy

Call to arms: ‘two days in November, then escalate’

University staff have been urged to stage a two-day walkout this month amid what unions described as employers’ “belligerent, disrespectful and disparaging” attitude to pay demands.

As staff from higher education’s three largest trade unions – the University and College Union, Unison and Unite – picketed campuses across the UK on 31 October, their leaders called on them to escalate industrial action.

Speaking at a strike rally in central London, Mark Campbell, a member of the UCU national executive, argued that trade unionists must “strike to win”, first “two days in November and then escalate”.

Members worried about losing several days’ wages should consider that the 13 per cent real-terms cut since 2008 was the equivalent of losing 34 days of pay, he said.

Threatening further action was the only way to gain concessions from employers, said Mr Campbell, senior lecturer in computer science at London Metropolitan University and a member of UCU Left.

“If you go into negotiations with a bloody big stick, you will get more than if you go and sit on your hands,” he said.

Staff should also ignore pleas by universities not to harm students’ education, he added. “How dare vice-chancellors say we do not care about students’ education,” he said. “These people do not give a damn about education – it’s all about profit and balance sheets for them.”

Employers’ refusal to revisit their 1 per cent pay offer showed their “belligerent, disrespectful and disparaging” attitude towards staff, said Mike McCartney, national officer at Unite, at the rally.

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association dismissed last week’s action, claiming that nine out of 10 institutions reported “no to low” impact (such as the need to reschedule lectures).

But unions claimed the strike was successful, shutting Soas, Birkbeck and Goldsmiths – all University of London colleges – and Liverpool Hope and Liverpool John Moores universities.

Michael MacNeil, head of higher education at the UCU, said “the sheer number of staff that joined the picket lines made it very apparent that there was no way it could have been business as usual”.

The effect of working-to-contract action, which began on 1 November, would also begin to affect student services, the union added.

The UCU has written this week to Ucea calling on it to reopen negotiations after a call from the National Union of Students for “a speedy resolution” to the dispute.


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